Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) states: “The principle of distinction … imposes an obligation on commanders to distinguish between legitimate military objectives and civilian objects and the civilian population when conducting military operations, particularly when selecting targets.”
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, New Zealand stated: “Discrimination between combatants and those who are not directly involved in armed conflict is a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law.”
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) provides that attacks must be directed against military objectives and that combatants are military objectives.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, New Zealand stated:
The first sentence of paragraph 2 of [Article 52] is not intended to, nor does it, deal with the question of incidental or collateral damage resulting from an attack directed against a military objective.
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) states: “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack.”
The manual further states that “making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack” constitutes a grave breach.
With respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, the manual states:
As in international armed conflict, the civilian population and civilians are to be protected against the dangers arising from the conflict. Neither the civilian population nor individual civilians may be made the object of attack.
New Zealand’s Geneva Conventions Act (1958), as amended in 1987, provides: “Any person who in New Zealand or elsewhere commits, or aids or abets or procures the commission by another person of, a grave breach … of [the 1977 Additional Protocol I] is guilty of an indictable offence.”
Under New Zealand’s International Crimes and ICC Act (2000), war crimes include the crimes defined in Article 8(2)(b)(i) and (e)(i) of the 1998 ICC Statute.